The 2014 Cleveland Half Marathon: A Gamble & a Lesson Learned

The Cleveland Half Marathon is my favorite spring race. I’ve run it four times. I also did the full a few years back. (It’s still my PR.) And the 10k was my first waaaaay back when. Sixteen years back to be exact.

Yet this year I was not looking forward to the race…thanks to an injury that put a serious damper on my training and spirit.

I battled a dull ache in my right leg for the three weeks leading up to the race. The doctor diagnosed it as shin splints, but no amount of rest, icing, compression or elevations seemed to help. I was super (SUPER!) frustrated with my inability to run. And I was an insufferable meanie to everyone – especially my husband who deserves a public apology. (I’m sooooo sorry for being a pill, honey!)

A week before the race, the doctor took x-rays and cleared me to run. But I still wasn’t feeling 100%. I weighed the pros and cons. Thought seriously about what running the race could do – make the leg worse, force serious time off, hinder any sort of training –  versus what not running it could do – add to the frustration, lead to a DNS, give me a case of the ‘what ifs.’ And decided to do it – promising myself that I’d pull over if it got bad.

Race day arrived with a chill. Fourty-six degrees in mid-May is cold…even by Cleveland standards. But the forecast had called for rain earlier in the week, so I was cool with the frigidness. My husband, mom, stepdad and sisters were my pitcrew for this one, and they kept me distracted from the cold as I waited to get going.

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C-c-c-can I run yet?!

A few minutes before the start, my husband took off on his bike. We’d brought it so he could meet me at a few points on the course…or take me back to the start if my leg failed. I looked around for my other Oiselle team birds and my friends Kelly and Bo, but it was so packed I couldn’t find anyone. I checked my shoelaces, pulled up my Oiselle arm warmers and said a little prayer asking that my legs get me through the race.

The gun went off – and so did I.

The first couple miles were quick and pain-free. I waved at my husband at the second mile marker. At that point I was still optimistic that it could be a good race…once I got the feeling back in my fingers.

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The arm warmer toss to the hubby.

By mile five I was finally warm. But my leg had started to ache a bit. Nothing I couldn’t run/deal with, but I started to worry. Then my stomach started to rumble. It wasn’t an I-have-to-make-a-pit-stop-right-now sort of grumble…at least not yet. So I put both aches out of my mind and focused on staying on pace. Amazingly, at that point, I was on track for a PR…and possibly even my long-time goal of a sub 1:45 half.

But that didn’t last.

By the time I hit mile eight, my pace had slowed because of my leg…and my stomach. At least they were taking turns making the race difficult.

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Mile 11. Am I there yet?

My worst split was mile 11, and by then I figured a PR was out of the question. Especially when I realized that my Garmin and the mile markers were off. I keep going but my leg and stomach continued to slow me down.

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Coming into the finish.

When I finally saw the finish line, I was happy and relieved. But I didn’t make the big push I usually do at the end of a race. I figured I’d lost 1:45, and there wasn’t a chance at a PR. So why risk more damage to my leg…or the possibility of an…err, accident?

This was the biggest mistake I made the entire race.

I crossed the finish line and looked at my Garmin. It said 13.33 miles and 1:47:53. The course had apparently been “long.” I dragged myself through the finish chute, collected my medal and food and met my husband. It wasn’t until I sat down an look at my Garmin that I realized my error. Amidst my aching leg and desperate need for a port-a-potty, I didn’t realize I narrowly missed a new PR…by 14 seconds. My PR pace was 8:11/mile. My pace on Sunday was 8:06/mile. Because the course was long, and I wasn’t thinking straight, I’d miscalculated.

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My husband’s attempt at cheering me up.

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My sister’s attempt.

Given everything that’d happened before and during the race, I should’ve been really happy with the outcome. My leg, while aching, wasn’t severely damaged. There was no embarrassing tummy theatrics. And I got to run the race. But I couldn’t help but beat myself up about those 14 seconds. The one time I didn’t sprint for the finish and it came back to bite me in the ass.

A few days have passed since the race and while my leg is still sore, my sore attitude has dissipated. I’m definitely still bummed about missing the PR. It would’ve been awesome to get it, especially under such crazy circumstances. Yet I’m encouraged by my mind and body’s ability to turn in a decent race…despite everything. I can’t get those 14 seconds back, but I can take a valuable lesson from them: always, always, always sprint for the finish.

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As always, thank you, pitcrew! ❤ 

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